The out-of-doors activities are amazing (though I do write this on Halloween, which has given us not only candy but also our first snow of the season). My non-exact counting of the "Evanston Parks" map, below, suggests you could try a new park every day in the summer and not run out of options. See? Some of my favorites are Pirate Park (along the lake), and Penny Park (on the corner of Lake & Ashland). If you move the Evanston not knowing a soul, worry not! Hit up some parks and find your tribe before your kid has a chance to fall off the slide!
Now. if you know Chicagoland, then you know that summer is amazing, but the eight months of winter can be killer. (Did I mention it's snowing?) Have no fear, because Evanston's got us desperate-not-to-be-housebound parents covered as well.
Since you can't beat free, the Evanston Public Library (EPL) is amazing. The main branch on the corner of Church and Orrington features half a floor devoted to kids. There are three separate play areas, toys that are out and games that can be borrowed (with a card, of course) and endless books to bewitch and amuse. The children's staff is amazing, offering as much direction as requested.
Gather, @ 602 Davis St, is a favorite for both parents and kids. This drop-in play space features free coffee, tea and wifi for you, while your little ones do art, play with the delicious smelling play dough (I believe Jell-O powder is the secret here!), and indulge in plenty of dress-up, blocks, trains, puzzles, and more.
Studios all over town offer classes for parents and kids. Check out Hip Circle Studio (Mother/Daughter Bellydance, anyone?), Grateful Yoga (for, you guessed it...), and the McGaw YMCA as you start your search.
I'd be remiss if I neglected the mention of food in this post, since Evanston has so many fabulous gems to try (and, I love food). For today, I will leave it to suggesting the lunch buffet at Mt. Everest @ 630 Church St (a perfect stop after a morning at the library). While the $10.95 lunch buffet blows all other Indian lunch buffets out of the water (in my humble opinion, of course), the real kicker is that KIDS EAT at the buffet for FREE. So, for example, I can go there with my two kids, and meet my friend, Rose, with her two kids, and all six of us can eat for under $30 including tip. Done and done! They will even bring your kiddo a half cup of mango lasee in a covered plastic cup... though, this may just be a brilliant ploy to inject young ones with sugar so that parents through there at lightening speed. No matter, works for me!
If you are a parent living in Evanston, I'd love to know your favorite kid-friendly spots around town. If you're a parent or soon-to-be parent thinking about living in Evanston, share in the comments what you'd love to see exist for parents in your new town.